For the past thirty-seven years, Testament have wowed audiences the world over with their heavy-yet-tasty brand of thrash metal. So much of the band’s appeal comes from frontman Chuck Billy, whose vocals are harsh and at the same time soulful, and whose huge personality is always at the forefront of the band’s live performance. Some singers take the stage to screams and applause; when Chuck gets up there, brandishing his mic-cane, the whole crowd bursts into one simultaneous smile.
In honor of Chuck Billy being the rad dude he is, we listed ten reasons that we’re such big fans of what he does. Here’s what we came up with…
He’s vocal about his pride in his of his Native heritage
Native Americans are often an overlooked or misunderstood minority in the heavy metal genre. That’s what it’s rad there’s Chuck Billy to be a role model for Native kids trying to make a name for themselves playing metal. As he once told Louder, Chuck explored his heritage while looking to Native healers during his recovery from cancer. He even wrote a song with Testament called “Native Blood” celebrating his lineage. Metal needs all voices, and for Chuck to give his community such a loud one is absolutely awesome.
He met his wife with the help of a terrifying stalker-ish fan named Tattoo Rob
According to an interview with LA Weekly, on their first tour Testament picked up a guy named Tattoo Rob, an intense ex-con who quickly became obsessed with them. So who better to help the band get chicks’ numbers than that guy! “I sent him over to try to get [my future wife Tiffany’s] phone number,” recalled Billy, “and she basically told him, ‘If he wants my number, he needs to come ask me himself.’ And that was the message that came back. So, I went another route, through another friend, and had him get the number for me. And [Tiffany and I] actually connected a day or two later after that show and have been together ever since.
He was one of the first metal stars to get in on the cannabis game
These days, everyone from Snoop Dogg to Ivan Moody has their own line of CBD oils and vape cartridges. But Chuck Billy launched his own herbal vaporizer The Chief back in 2015, a year after Colorado had legalized recreational marijuana use and long before recreational dispensaries could be found throughout the state. We’re sure Chuck would assure us that The Chief is only meant to be used with non-THC flavored cartridges — though we also wouldn’t be surprised if he winked at us afterwards.
He’s a cancer survivor, because fuck dying
Hearing Chuck talk about finding out he had a cancerous mass in his chest will at first make fans tear up — and then start cackling in glee. Billy told Louder that he initially broke down upon telling his wife the news, but then quickly rebounded by deciding that cancer was a dick. “That’s when it crosses your mind: ‘I got it, I’m gonna die.’ But then I woke up the next day and I was, like, ‘This is bullshit, I’m fighting, I’m gonna have at it, fuck this.’” Surviving cancer is heroic; telling it to go get fucked is some champion-level shit.
He’s cousins with Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter
Wait, really? Unbeknownst to some, Chuck is first cousins with Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter. The two don’t seem to make a big public deal out of it — there aren’t a bunch of interviews with the two of them telling stories about things that happened at family barbecues — but it does appear to be a fact. We like to imagine Chuck introducing a young Stephen to Black Sabbath at Christmas, but knowing cousins, they were probably just polite over a ham-based meal.
He did a country cover of “Ace of Spades”
These days, everyone from Corey Taylor to Body Count has screamed the lyrics to Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” at the top of their lungs. But Chuck Billy had to put his own spin on it, and so performed his rendition of the classic speed metal tune alongside a stand-up bass, in what sounds like an auctioneer’s voice. The result is a cover that somehow makes you wanna get drunk more than the original.
He promoted an LP while recovering from COVID-19
Earlier this year, Testament released their 12th original studio album, Titans of Creation. The record dropped on April 8th — but according to Billboard, in late March, Billy revealed that he’d been diagnosed with the coronavirus. That means all the interviews and promo Chuck did for the album until then was while he was unknowingly suffering from COVID symptoms, and any he did between then and the record’s release date was while knowing he had a virus that was shutting down the entire world. We’re just glad he’s okay.
He’s not sore about the Big Four
There are a lot of people out there who believe that thrash metal’s infamous Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth) should have been the Big Five, with Testament added at the end. Billy, however, is a bigger man than the kind who would worry about that. “The ‘Big Four,’ those four bands had great success selling millions of records,” he told the Music Mania podcast in 2018. “But the rest of us — Exodus, Death Angel, Testament — we didn’t sell out those festivals or that amount of records. So I don’t see us being compared to that.” Nothing like a little grace to make a dude shine.
He literally swims with sharks
While telling his life story to Louder, Billy revealed an interesting hobby he’s fond of: confronting God’s perfect killing machine. “I go shark diving off Ensenada in Mexico,” said Billy. “We go out for seven days to the Guadeloupe Islands and dive with the sharks in cages…Sometimes the sharks will hit the cages and try to get in it. But it’s an 18 – 20 hour boat ride to get out there and an 18 – 20 hour boat ride to get back. You’re way out there.” The guy takes a boat for nearly a day to almost get eaten by live sharks. What have you done?
When a dude talked shit about him, he cut off the guys hair
Fun story: according to an interview with LA Weekly, when Chuck found out that Rick Ratto of the band Diamond was talking shit about him, he didn’t start a fight or call him out publicly — he ‘scalped’ him. See, Rick apparently had nice long hair — as Billy remembers it, “It was kind of metal, but kind of a pretty-boy band. The last thing he wanted was his hair cut. So I just pulled his whole ponytail back and cut all his hair off and just held it, shaking it in his face, as he screamed bloody murder with his girlfriend on the phone. It was a bad situation. And I think I ended up dating his girlfriend right after that.”
Words by Chris Krovatin